The Lucid Krishna

by Michelle

Just went for a gorgeous, breezy walk on the first day of autumn, my favourite season. Time to blog away my toothache.

How cool is this: a Tanjore (tanjavur) gold leaf painting of the blue-skinned Lord Krishna as Vishvarūpa, the title of my forthcoming collection of poetry. Vishvarūpa is the infinite form Krishna reveals to Arjuna in the battle at Kurukshetra, circa 500 BC. Krishna arrives at the scene to counsel Arjuna at a time when he must chose allegiance to either duty or filial love. The apparition is narrated in the Bhagavad Gīta, and the Mahābhārata. Basically, Krishna appears with a plethora of heads and arms, representing the “universal,” the interdependence of all living things, micro and macro. Among other things, such as saving Arjuna’s men from ambushes, astronomical faux-pas and conflagrations, he tells Arjuna to stop contemplating his navel and get on with the business of fighting a war against his cousins, the Kauravas.

by Ramesh and Selvaraj, from the Collection of Akkisetti. Ramprasad Naidu, Pune, India

While I do like Krishna quite a lot, I reference the name in another way, as a secular cast for hybridity, multiplicity and abstraction. The shapes which language and belief inhabit are fascinating. I’m interested in myth as a watershed where structures of identity through history and culture might be reimagined. Fellow poet & translator, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, kindly located this image from the collector Ramprasad, noting that it’s lavish in mythological detail and true to type with the gigantic Vishnu avatar figure dominating the painting.

Speaking of Krishna, the literary journal Southerly has uploaded a Long Paddock teaser for their India issue. It looks great; there’s some excellent work here, reflecting Australia’s extended literary exchanges with India, which have been characterised by diverse and unique voices. So far I’ve particularly enjoyed a Devadatta poem by Judith Beveridge, the fine review by Ali Alizadeh, of Kerry Leves’ A Shrine to Lata Mangeshkar, and Vicki Vidikkas’ New and Selected, . & yeah, there’s also my story, The Lucid Krishna.